Bridget Brereton

In October 1963, with the opening of what was then called the College of Arts and Sciences, teaching began at the St Augustine campus of UWI in the humanities and the social and natural sciences (previously the only two faculties were Agriculture and Engineering).

Conditions for staff and students were difficult, with a severe shortage of teaching resources, including books, and a scramble for usable classroom and laboratory space.

The first person to teach history courses at St Augustine was the eminent Jamaican historian Carl Campbell, who arrived here as a young man just days before the term began. Many Trini St Augustine graduates will remember his teaching during those exciting years, when the campus was new and staff knew their students personally and interacted closely with them.

He stayed until 1972, pioneering (along with a few colleagues like James Millette and the late Neville Hall) undergraduate teaching and graduate research in history at the St Augustine campus. Campbell transferred to the Mona campus in Jamaica in 1972, and was a pillar of the history department there up to, and long after, his official retirement in 2004.

Even though he went to Mona in 1972, he returned often to Trinidad and to St Augustine. His major research interests were the history of Trinidad’s free coloured (mixed-race) and free black communities, and the social history of education in T&T between the 1830s and the 1980s. His books on these two subjects remain the authoritative works up to today.

Campbell’s Cedulants and Capitulants: The Politics of the Coloured Opposition in the Slave Society of Trinidad, 1783-1838 was published by Paria in 1992, and was the result of decades of original research on the social, political and economic situation of Trinidad’s free coloureds and free blacks during the last 50 years of slavery.

His major books on education in T&T—The Young Colonials: A Social History of Education in Trinidad and Tobago, 1834-1939 and Endless Education: Main Currents in the Education system of Modern Trinidad and Tobago, 1939-1986—were published by The UWI Press in 1996 and 1997. They are by a long way the best researched studies of their subject, even two decades after they appeared.

To honour Campbell’s long and distinguished career, his colleagues decided to organise a “Festschrift”—a publication to celebrate a scholar’s work. It took the form of a special issue of The Journal of Caribbean History, the organ of the three UWI departments of history which has been published ever since 1970. Full disclosure: I was the guest editor; I’ve been a friend and colleague of Campbell ever since we were both PhD students at St Augustine between 1968 and 1972.

A hybrid virtual/in-person event was held on January 29, in which copies of the special journal issue were presented to Campbell at Mona. Many people attended virtually and paid tribute to his many contributions to the writing and teaching of Caribbean history. They included UWI Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles, also an eminent historian, who recalled that Campbell was head of the department at Mona when he arrived for his first job there, and was met by him at the airport in Kingston. Other distinguished UWI historians who spoke briefly included Sir Woodville Marshall of Cave Hill (Barbados) and Sir Roy Augier of Mona.

While Carl Campbell spent most of his UWI career at Mona, the St Augustine campus can claim him as the “Founding Father” of history teaching and research there.

His pioneering research and writing on T&T’s history in the 19th and 20th centuries ensure he will always be remembered in this country.

• Bridget Brereton is professor emerita of history at The UWI, St Augustine

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